In The Know: June 28, 2011

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, the Oklahoma Supreme Court declined to consider a lawsuit that challenges a transfer of more than $100M out of the state transportation fund to meet the budget shortfall. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Osage Nation’s claim that all of Osage County remains reservation land. Though earlier numbers had challenger Bill John Baker in the lead, the official count in the election for Cherokee principal chief has given the race to incumbent Chad Smith by seven votes. Baker says he will ask for a recount.

In its most recent budget, the State Board of Education eliminated funding for an award-winning dropout prevention program in Tulsa. An anonymous donor has given $175k to Tulsa Public Schools to restore eight social worker positions that would have been lost to budget cuts. Oklahoma City Public Schools is expanding some programs with a $3 million revenue increase over last year’s budget. The leader of a conservative teachers’ association is criticizing the education budget priorities.

With state leaders again making noises about eliminating the income tax, the OK Policy Blog reruns a post about the last time lawmakers attempted to become more like Texas. Kelly Dyer Fry will replace Ed Kelley as editor of the The Oklahoman. Three independent pharmacists in Pryor have announced they will begin requiring prescriptions for pseudoephedrine, though the city is waiting on an AG opinion over whether they can legally mandate it. NewsOK argues against requiring law-abiding citizens to go to such lengths for allergy medicine.

In today’s Policy Note, Massachusetts could be the first state to employ “social impact bonds,” which raise money for social services by offering investors the chance to earn profits based on any state savings that result. Read on for more.

In The News

Oklahoma Supreme Court declines to hear fuel tax suit

The Oklahoma Supreme Court Monday declined to consider a lawsuit that challenges the Legislature’s plan to transfer $101.7 million in state fuel tax revenue to state agencies that are not involved in road and bridge construction and maintenance. The decision by the nine-member court clears the way for the money to be transferred from a state transportation fund to help fill a $500 million hole in the state budget for the fiscal year that begins Friday. The lawsuit, filed on June 8 by Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent, alleged that transferring fuel taxes to agencies not involved in transportation is unconstitutional because the state Constitution says “no tax levied and collected for one purpose shall ever be devoted to another purpose.” But an order signed by Chief Justice Steven Taylor says the state’s highest court would not assume original jurisdiction of the lawsuit.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

Despite Supreme Court ruling, Osage chief insists county never lost its status as reservation

Osage Nation tribal officials are still insistent that all of Osage County is a reservation, despite the Supreme Court’s deciding the matter to the contrary Monday. Tribal leaders in press releases and in direct talks continue to maintain that the county never lost its reservation status. State officials maintain that the reservation lost its legal status when it was incorporated into the state when Oklahoma became a state in 1907. The Supreme Court’s rejection of the tribe’s appeal of a lower court ruling ends a case that was filed a decade ago. The Pawhuska-based tribe argued in its lawsuit that the Osage Reservation was never formally disestablished by Congress and that all of Osage County should be considered Indian Country. Had the tribe prevailed, tribal members who live and work in Osage County would have been exempt from state income taxes.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Official Cherokee election results swing vote back to Smith

The Cherokee Nation Election Commission overturned the unofficial results in the principal chief’s race Monday afternoon and declared current chief Chadwick “Corntassel” Smith the winner by seven votes. Bill John Baker, originally named the winner based on the unofficial results announced early Sunday morning, issued a statement Monday evening demanding a recount. As per Cherokee law, he has until 5 p.m. Wednesday to request a recount or 5 p.m. Monday to challenge the results. Roger Johnson, chairman of the Cherokee Nation’s election commission, would not comment on the difference between the results posted Sunday morning and those certified Monday by the commission.

Read more from this Native American Times article at

See also: Challenger in race for Cherokee Nation principal chief asks for recount from NewsOn6

State board axes funds for award-winning dropout prevention program

Local education leaders are continuing to come to grips with more bad budget news, including total elimination of state funding for an award-winning dropout prevention program in Tulsa. Street School, a 38-year-old nonprofit organization that offers alternative classes and therapeutic counseling to about 90 students at a time, learned that $185,000 – nearly 15 percent of its overall revenue for the next school year – was eliminated when the state Board of Education approved its budget Thursday. Street School was honored in 2009 as the first recipient of a statewide achievement award in alternative education by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, and in 2004, it received the highest honor for excellence in dropout prevention from the National Dropout Prevention Network.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Anonymous donor gives thousands to Tulsa Public Schools

Tulsa Public Schools received a very generous donation Monday from an anonymous donor. TPS announced they have received a $175,000 grant from an anonymous donor that will be used to fund eight service specialists and social workers in the district’s high schools for the upcoming academic year. The positions were recently eliminated from the budget June 14.  The cuts were included in the $4.2 million eliminated from the TPS special education budget caused by the end of 2009 stimulus funding by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in addition to reductions in state funding by the Oklahoma legislature.

Read more from this KJRH article at

Oklahoma City schools’ budget adds programs

The Oklahoma City School Board approved a fiscal year 2012 budget Monday that added about $3 million in programs for the district’s roughly 40,000 students. Scott Randall, the district’s senior financial officer, projected the district will receive $12 million less in state aid than it did in fiscal year 2010. However, compared to fiscal year 2011, when the district was forced to lay off teachers, increase class sizes and cut programs, there is actually a net-increase in revenue of $3 million when taking into account state aid and federal stimulus money provided to prevent education jobs from being lost. That $3 million will allow management to hire 30 additional prekindergarten teachers to expand early childhood education programs. It will mean sixth-graders in the Centennial High School feeder pattern will be able to remain in elementary schools for another year and several high schools will start developing specialized academic programs with career focuses.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Leader of conservative teachers’ association criticizes education budget priorities

An initial wave of supportive comments about budget priorities established at last week’s meeting of the state Board of Education has given way to a flurry of critical statements early this week. In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, Ginger Tinney of Professional Oklahoma Educators (POE) expressed concern about agency priorities. An important funding decision on early childhood education made at last week’s meeting attracted immediate support from Pat Potts of Oklahoma Champions for Early Opportunities (OKCEO). Potts cheered the decision to boost early childhood funding. Tinney, however has taken a critical stance: “It is interesting to note that Supt. Janet Barresi is giving more money to early childhood, an increase of $656,525.”

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at,_alleged_%E2%80%9Cconflict_of_interest%E2%80%9D_assailed.

Summer rerun: Back to Texas? Income tax proposal stirs up old memories

Recently, Governor Mary Fallin made headlines for saying that while she has no immediate plans to propose more income tax cuts, her long-term goal is to do away with the income tax while finding a way to “restructure the state’s tax system to find new ways to pay for essential public services”. Her statement echoed one made earlier this year by House Revenue and Taxation Chair David Dank, which prompted this blog post back in February. Rep. Dank’s call to reform Oklahoma’s tax system to look more like Texas, and particularly the endorsement of a complete elimination of the personal income tax, may have a vaguely familiar ring. In the early 2000s, the state embarked on an extensive tax reform process guided, at least initially, by the goal of making Oklahoma’s tax system resemble that of Texas.  After a year of research, reports, task forces, hearings and recommendations, the final tax reform proposal that emerged from this process was much different than what was initially considered – and wound up going almost nowhere.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Kelly Dyer Fry to replace Ed Kelley as editor of The Oklahoman

Christy Everest, Chairman and CEO of the Oklahoma Publishing Co. announced Monday that Kelly Dyer Fry will assume duties as Editor of The Oklahoman in addition to serving as Vice President of News for OPUBCO Communications Group. Fry has been with the company for 17 years. She started as Features Editor before moving to the digital side of the operation in 1997. In 2001 she led the team that launched, serving as general manager of NewsOK. Fry and her team introduced video to NewsOK in 2007 after constructing a state-of-the-art studio on the OPUBCO campus. Later that same year, she led the reorganization of OPUBCO’s news operation by merging the digital side with The Oklahoman’s News and Information Center.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Pharmacists in Pryor to demand prescriptions for pseudoephedrine

The owners of the three independent pharmacies in Pryor – the city with the highest per-capita pseudoephedrine sales in Oklahoma last year – have decided to stop selling the allergy drug to customers who don’t have a doctor’s prescription. Pseudoephedrine is commonly used in the production of methamphetamine. Drew Turner, who owns the Elliott Plaza Pharmacy in Pryor, started the movement with an announcement Monday morning. He said he will work with customers to make sure they can get the prescriptions they need. Derek Sien, who owns the Beggs Pharmacy in Pryor, said that if Turner did it, he would too.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: As meth use continues in Oklahoma, ridiculous rhetoric increases from NewsOK

Quote of the Day

We’ve received funding from the state Department of Education for over 25 years, and to not get so much as an email to prepare us after the assurance I received verbally is unprofessional to say the least.

Lori McGinnis-Madland, executive director of the dropout prevention program Street School, which had its state funding eliminated in the most recent budget.

Number of the Day

Cents out of every dollar earned that Oklahomans pay in state and local taxes.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute, 10 Things you Should Know About Budget and Taxes

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

States exploring ‘pay for success’ bonds to fund social programs

Massachusetts could be among the first states in the country to raise money for social services by offering investors the chance to earn profits on programs they establish. The approach is known as “social impact bonds’’ or “pay for success.’’ It is based on the idea that if programs backed by investors succeed in reducing, for example, the number of inmates in prison or the homeless population, governments will realize big savings, which they can tap to pay off investors with healthy returns. If the programs fail, the government would owe little or nothing. The administration of Governor Deval Patrick is already sifting through more than two dozen suggestions from nonprofits on how to create such performance-based programs.

Read more from at

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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